When spring is in the air, so is the hayfever season. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture aren’t just for relieving pain. These treatments can also be good for a variety of inflammatory ailments including allergies and asthma. And acupucture can work in conjunction with your existing medications.
I love spring, and I don’t suffer too badly from hayfever allergies myself, but my sons do, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time working out what is going on, and what to do about it (just to make sure they are able to help me out in the flower-filled garden). Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis) affects nearly 15% of adults and children in Australia.
There is always a lot to do in the garden when spring arrives – weeding, planting, pruning and generally preparing for the summer. It’s wonderful to feel the gentle sunshine and warmth, see signs of new life everywhere, and breathe in the intoxicating fragrance of the blossoms – but it’s not so much fun when all this fragrance and growth makes you sneeze endlessly and feel totally miserable.
It helps to understand what is going on in your body. Now that spring has arrived, your body has changed its focus from winter storage to spring cleaning, to prepare your body for the more active physicality of the warmer seasons. Your spleen takes on the huge task of cleansing, including helping the kidneys to remove the previous winter storage that is no longer required. For many, this overloads the spleen.
The sudden exposure to spring’s pollens and other allergens also puts a huge demand on our lungs which need to process the phlegm that has built up in our bodies. The lungs now urgently require the assistance of the spleen as well, to clear out the sudden flood of phlegm. If your spleen’s already overloaded by the process of coming out of hibernation, you can imagine what will happen. It’s like a cooking pot that has had the lid on tightly – when you remove the lid everything boils over. Your eyes and skin are itchy, puffy and red, your ears may hurt, the throat is irritated, and your nose is sniffling and stuffy. You sneeze and feel headachy and miserable. Productivity plummets and fatigue sets in.
Pharmaceutical medications such as antihistamines, corticosteroids and decongestants may go some way towards helping with the symptoms. Whereas Chinese medicine is about building the strength of your health in areas where it is lacking, rather than just symptom relief.
TCM helps by boosting your immune system which clears and reduces hay fever symptoms.
In Chinese Medicine, hayfever falls under three main types:-
The treatment for hayfever with either acupuncture or Chinese herbal remedies varies depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, your age, and other health issues present.
Acupuncture can greatly decrease your hayfever symptoms. Acupuncture can immediately open up blocked or congested sinuses, clear sinus headaches, clear red itchy eyes and boost the immune system. Treatment is recommended weekly for 3-4 weeks, and is then gradually tapered off.
Chinese herbs may need to be continued for the whole season. Then the following hayfever season will have reduced symptoms.
Ideally, treatments for hayfever should begin 6 months prior to the hayfever season, in order to greatly reduce the severity of hayfever and this may even prevent hayfever symptoms from arising. If you miss the 6 month pre-season treatments, then definitely come into the clinic when the very first signs appear, because it is much easier to treat in the early stages, before the symptoms fully set in.
The best way to keep clear of hayfever is to avoid all allergens. However, as it is practically impossible to completely avoid all your triggers, you can often take steps to reduce your exposure: like staying indoors on days where there is a strong, hot, dry wind blowing, or when there is a high level of pollen in the air. Turn air conditioners to recycle. For example, in November 2016 there was a lot of spring growth in the grasslands across western Victoria after a wet winter, and the winds carried huge amounts of airborne grass pollen into the urban areas of the city of Melbourne, because grasses and weeds usually have a lighter pollen which can travel vast distances on the wind. If a heavy rain occurs at this time, the grass pollen can absorb the moisture and burst into fine, tiny particles, which can get into the small bronchial tubes in the lungs and cause an allergic reaction, which is sometimes called “thunderstorm asthma”.
Planting Australian native plants in your garden may be helpful because these generally have less and heavier pollen, and are bird or insect pollinated, rather than wind pollinated. Just be aware that some of the more fragrant Australian native flowers can still affect sensitive noses. Introduced species, like deciduous trees are generally wind pollinated. Also, try to keep the lawns mowed regularly to stop the grass from pollinating, although this will not stop the airborne pollen blowing in from the surrounding park-lands and homes.
So why wait to treat the root cause of the problem? When you come to see us in the clinic, we will also tell you about a few more things related to your body type that you can do at home to help your body eliminate toxins more effectively in between your Chinese medicine treatments. These can be simple things like staying hydrated.
It’s time for you to re-balance your system and to fall in love with the joys of spring.
Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) is an extremely effective treatment for hay fever and congested sinuses. During a TCM session you will feel your sinuses opening up and an improved ability to breathe through your nose. You will also notice that your head feels clearer.
Anna has experienced chronic sinus congestion for over 10 years with constant sinus headaches (along her forehead, around her nose and behind her eyes) and inability to breathe through her nose properly. Her symptoms always intensify during spring.
During her first acupuncture session she was amazed that she could breathe through her nose and her sinus headache had reduced significantly. Chinese herbs were prescribed to strengthen her immune system, clear any residual infection and open up her nasal passages. Over the next sessions she noticed that her sinuses were remaining clear for longer periods between acupuncture treatments and her headaches had disappeared.
Greg suffers from hay fever every spring, with sneezing, lots of clear nasal secretions, itchy eyes and a scratchy throat. He felt miserable and irritated and stayed indoors to avoid the pollens. Within 5 minutes of having the acupuncture needles inserted his sneezing stopped, his head felt clearer and his eyes were less itchy. As the hay fever season progressed he was delighted that his symptoms had significantly reduced. Next Autumn we will start Greg’s treatments earlier to prepare his system for the following spring.
Emma had never really suffered from hay fever until this spring, but suddenly her sinuses were clogged, her eyes inflamed and watery and she was constantly sneezing. Over the counter medications and nasal sprays helped a bit, but didn’t really help the underlying cause. She heard about Bing’s Natural Health and decided to give Traditional Chinese Medicine a try.
Emma’s practitioner treated her with acupuncture which “felt strange, but quite pleasant and relaxing”, gave her some herb pearls to take, and told her to stop the other medicines and come back in 5 days. By the second visit she felt much better, her sinuses had cleared and the sneezing had stopped (mostly). Two weeks later Emma came back for a third visit and she was feeling great. Now Emma is planning to continue her treatments monthly because she feels so much more energised and emotionally calm and realises how much they help her overall well-being.
Common Chinese Herbs for Allergies and Hay Fever
Your symptoms and body type will determine the optimal formula for your health needs, and this can vary from year to year. Below are several common patent Chinese herb formulas available at the clinic which are suitable for hay fever and sinusitis.
Your practitioner will determine which formula is best suited for you, or if additional formulas are needed, or if an individualised granule formula is optimal. We recommend that if you are prone to allergies you start your acupuncture and herbal treatments 3-6 months prior to peak hay fever season.
This formula helps to combat infection, drain sinuses, and reduce inflammation. It is used when there is a yellow-green nasal discharge, intense sinus pain and sinus headaches.
Bi Min Gan Wan:
This formula is great for standard hay fever symptoms of itchy eyes, sneezing, and lots of clear nasal secretions.
Xin Yi San:
This formula is used in cases where there is more sinus congestion present with minimal runny nose.
N.B. Please consult with a registered TCM practitioner before taking any Chinese herbs to ensure compatibility with your health needs, your body type, and to minimise any interactions with your current medications. It is very important not to self-diagnose!
Recent Australian Research suggests that there are significant and clinically relevant benefits of acupuncture for hay fever.
Back in the 1780’s Benjamin Franklin famously said that “anything we cannot see must not exist”. Modern science is increasingly helping us to understand and measure invisible substances. The study linked above shows many exciting explanations of the mechanisms by which acupuncture affects your body. Acupuncture is effective, and it is wonderful to see serious research into exactly how acupuncture impacts our amazing bodies.
The benefits of acupuncture include an anti-inflammatory effect on several physiological pathways, antihistamine effects as acupuncture interrupts many biochemical reactions that cause inflammation and hyper-sensitivity within the body.
Acupuncture appears to be able to disrupt several biochemical pathways involved in inflammation and mucus production. This is one reason why acupuncture is so effective in combatting hay fever and sinusitis.
Itching and rash: Studies indicate that acupuncture significantly reduces allergic (histamine-induced) itch and rashes in healthy subjects compared with placebo point acupuncture or no intervention. Acupuncture reduces the activity of the receptors which mediate histamine-induced symptoms such as nasal itching, sneezing, and nasal discharge. This exciting Australian research begins to offer scientific explanations why acupuncture is so effective.